The Differences that Make a Difference: William James on the Importance of Individuals

European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, Vol. 2, p. 1, 2010

University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-16

11 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2010

See all articles by Susan Haack

Susan Haack

University of Miami - School of Law; University of Miami - Department of Philosophy

Date Written: June 23, 2010

Abstract

William James’s "On the Importance of Individuals" (1890) is part of his contribution to the long-running late-nineteenth-century debate on the question of "great men" in history. C. S. Peirce also took an interest in this question, but from a statistical angle apparently at odds with James more intuitive, anecdotal approach. A comparative study, however, reveals the attractive possibility of combining ideas from Peirce and ideas from James to arrive at a subtler understanding of what statistical social-scientific study can, and what it cannot, do, and a more complete theory of inquiry that will accommodate both the individual contributions that James highlights, and the social mechanisms of correction and adjustment that Peirce stresses.

Keywords: William James, C. S. Peirce, Individual vs. Community, Great Men in History, Social Determinism, Theory of Inquiry

Suggested Citation

Haack, Susan, The Differences that Make a Difference: William James on the Importance of Individuals (June 23, 2010). European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, Vol. 2, p. 1, 2010; University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1629386

Susan Haack (Contact Author)

University of Miami - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 248087
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States
305-284-3541 (Phone)
305-284-6506 (Fax)

University of Miami - Department of Philosophy ( email )

P.O. Box 248054
Coral Gables, FL 33124-4670
United States

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